During Queen Emma’s sojourn on Kauai during December 1870 through April 1871, she resided at Mauna Kilohana, which was located within the 4,200-acre ahupuaa of Lawai deeded to her by her aunt Hikoni.
Emma’s home at Mauna Kilohana was a frame house with a thatched roof situated atop the bluff on the Koloa side of Lawai Valley, overlooking Lawai Bay.
Several outbuildings stood nearby, and the area was enclosed within stonewalls.
She’d named it “Mauna Kilohana” to commemorate the mountain trip she’d made in January 1871 to the Kilohana of Hanalei overlooking Wainiha Valley within the Alakai Swamp.
During her stay at Mauna Kilohana, Emma asked William O. Smith and George Norton Wilcox to construct a water ditch to transform its arid pastureland into a garden, and the trio then located an upland water source on horseback.
Smith and Wilcox engineered the ditch, and men hired to build it were supplied with tools, blasting powder, and plenty of beer to “warm the men and make the work go faster,” according to Emma.
By March 11, 1871, water reached her house at Mauna Kilohana.
Emma personally planted hau, ti, banana, sugarcane, taro, and pia at Mauna Kilohana, and ferns, haole lehua, rose apple, kamani, mango, bamboo, hala, and the magenta bougainvillea that drape the pali to this day were also cultivated.
Later in 1871, Emma leased her Lawai land to Duncan McBryde.
In 1886, the year following her death, Duncan McBryde’s wife, Elizabeth McBryde, purchased the ahupuaa of Lawai for $5,000 at an auction held to pay off the queen’s debts.
Their son, Alexander McBryde, was granted the lower lands of Lawai in 1899.
And, in the early 1900s, with sugarcane about to be planted at Mauna Kilohana, Alexander McBryde cut Emma’s house into sections, had it carefully lowered over the pali onto the valley floor, where it became known as Queen Emma’s Cottage, and lived in it for a time.
When wealthy philanthropist Robert Allerton bought the lower part of Lawai in 1938, he preserved the cottage.
Queen Emma’s Cottage is now part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org